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Flying high into the section finals

By MN Hockey Hub staff, 02/27/12, 2:29PM CST


Totino-Grace cruises past Mahtomedi in Section 4A semifinals

Before No. 7-ranked Totino-Grace stepped onto the ice, they knew it it defeated Mahtomedi, there would be another shot to knock off St. Thomas Academy in the Section 4A finals.

But there was business to be taken care of first.

Mahtomedi is not a team to overlook, especially for the Eagles, which beat the Zephyrs 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 3.

However, Totino-Grace needed the alarm to go off to start its work day.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Nick Nelson of Mahtomedi did just that, scoring a goal, 1 minute, 19 seconds into the game.

"Not exactly the way you want to start out, " Eagles coach, Mark Loahr said. "That is a team that can score a lot of goals on you if they get going."

Faster than one can hit the snooze button, Andrew McDonald tied the game just six seconds later, which eventually propelled the Eagles to a 6-1 victory.

"It was a bit of a wake-up call," McDonald said. "We didn't start out like we wanted to, but it was important for us to bounce back."

"That goal was huge," Loahr said. "It was needed and he (McDonald) has been scoring big goals like that for us all year."

McDonald's 32nd goal of the season opened the floodgates for the Eagles, which used Luke Mezzenga's goal late in the first period to springboard that momentum into the second, where they put the game out of reach with three more goals.

"Things just started clicking for us," Mezzenga said. "I think we all just started to feel more comfortable after we tied it up."

When the Eagles built their lead, they were able to focus on team defense, locking down on the Zephyrs most potent line that consists of Johno May, Patrick Kegley and Tanner Jordan.

In the previous meeting this season, Mahtomedi's top line accumulated a combined total of seven points and accounted for all three goals (Kegley two goals, May one goal).

On Feb. 28, the trio did not record a single point.

"We know how tough that line is as we could not allow them to get any momentum going," Loahr said. "Our team defense was outstanding tonight and it has been getting better lately."

"I think that was the biggest difference between the two games," Mezzenga said. "They had chances in the first game, but we didn't want that to happen tonight."

Even with the big lead and the control it had on Mahtomedi's top line, Totino-Grace did not let the thought of playing for a trip to state creep into its minds until there was no time left on the clock.

There was after all, business to take care of first and the work day doesn't end if there is clock doesn't read zero's.

"We didn't start thinking about St. Thomas (Academy) until we got in the locker room after the game," McDonald said. "We knew it was probably come down to us, St. Thomas (Academy) and Mahtomedi to go to state.

"We played a good team that has been there before, so we made sure we were not going to overlook them at all, because they are capable of making a run."

Instead, the Eagles will have a chance to soar into the state tournament for the first time since the 2004-2005 season when they made it all the way to the finals, losing to Warroad 4-3.

"This is what every player dreams about doing," McDonald said. "You get a chance to go to state and knock off the team that beat you last year."

Game Recap

After giving up the first goal of the game, just 89 seconds into the game, No. 7 Totino-Grace stormed right back, scoring the next six goals and defeated Mahtomedi 6-1 in the Section 4A semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Aldrich Arena.

Andrew McDonald scored just six seconds after Nick Nelson of Mahtomedi opened the scoring for the game.

Later in the first, Luke Mezzenga scored the first of his two goals to propel the Eagles to a second consecutive section championship game against No. 2 St. Thomas Academy, the top seed in Section 4A.

In addition to his two goals, Mezzenga also recorded an assist and was one three Eagles to have three points on the night.

McDonald and TJ Roo each had a goal and two assists.

Totino-Grace took a 2-1 lead into the locker room after the first 17 minutes of play, then opened the game wide open in the second with three goals.

Derek Lodermeier, Mezzenga and TJ Roo each scored in the second period, which gave the Eagles a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the third period.

Carter Roo fired a wrist shot in the upper corner in the third, which added to the insurance Totino-Grace already had.

Zephyrs goalie, Sawyer Marshall was consistently busy all night, facing 36 shots on goal, a high amount of those being quality chances.

Rory Davidowski shut the door on Mahtomedi after giving up the opening goal.

He ended the evening with 25 saves.

The win sets up a rematch of last season's Section 4A championship game with St. Thomas Academy, which took down South St. Paul 5-0 in the first game of the semifinals on Feb. 28.

A year ago, the Cadets beat Totino-Grace, 5-3, and three games later were the Class A state champions.

Totino-Grace and St. Thomas Academy will square off at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 2 at Aldrich Arena.

Statistics, Summary

1. Luke Mezzenga, Totino-Grace
Two goals and an assist gives Mezzenga the top star for the game. He tallied the game-winning goal in the first period and added an impressive upper shelf shot on an Eagles power play in the second to stretch the lead. When he was on the ice, the puck found his stick and when that occurred, good things happened to the Eagles.

2. Andrew McDonald, Totino-Grace
He got the ball rolling for the Eagles, just six seconds after Mahtomedi took an early 1-0 lead. He also assisted on two goals, which gives him a total of seven points so far in the postseason.

3. TJ Roo, Totino-Grace
Another member of the Eagles that accumulated three points against Mahtomedi. Like McDonald, he also had a goal and two assists, which was a nice performance following his previous game, where he had a hat trick and two assists. His 23rd goal of the season was a goal-scorer's goal, getting the puck in front of the net and having the ability to be patient and wait for an opening to shoot the puck, which he did into a wide open net.

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